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Obenshain Statement on Budget Passage

May 13, 2024

RICHMOND, VA – Today, Senator Mark Obenshain (R- Rockingham) voted in favor of the next biennium budget during today’s Special Session of the General Assembly.

Senator Obenshain made the following comments regarding the budget bill:

I am thankful that the discussions between budget conferees and the Governor over the past few weeks have been an exercise in collaboration to come up with a proposed budget we considered and passed today. With no new taxes, historic investments in I-81 and funding for other important priorities, this budget is a good thing for Virginia families, and I look forward to its implementation over the next two years.

When the General Assembly sent a budget to Governor Youngkin in March, the Democrat-controlled finance committees proposed significant tax increases on Virginia families to help pay for new spending in the budget. I opposed that budget and after weeks of negotiations, I am happy to report that we passed a final budget with no new tax increases on Virginians.

Further, the General Assembly’s budget sent to Governor Youngkin in November mandated that Virginia be required to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative which would unnecessarily raise electric utility rates for every Virginian household. Thankfully, we negotiated this tax through electric rates out of the final version of the budget passed this week.

In addition, not included in the final budget was a Democrat-championed push to increase the minimum wage in Virginia to a level that would have greatly harmed the ability of our businesses, especially small and medium sized companies, to continue growing. Thank you to our budget conferees and Governor Youngkin for standing up for small businesses.   

I am especially pleased that several key funding components were included in the final budget that directly impact the Shenandoah Valley.  First, $3.0 million in the first year of the budget has been appropriated  to repair and upgrade the dam at Lake Shenandoah in Rockingham County, which is owned by the Department of Wildlife Resources. This has been a long overdue and much-needed repair for many years now and I’m glad to see that the conferees included this funding in the final budget.

Second, with the impending closure of Augusta Correctional Facility this July, it leaves an adverse financial impact on Town of Craigsville and Augusta County.  This budget keeps the $3.8M funding from the Commonwealth for a bond defeasance for the Town of Craigsville to assist with this closure. This funding will be used towards paying off the loans that the Town of Craigsville has on the water and wastewater infrastructure. Augusta Correctional Center has historically contributed operational funding for the wastewater plant and paid water usage rates to the Town.

Finally, there are additional general funds allocated to Interstate 81.   $70 million has been appropriated for the first year of the budget to support the advancement of projects in the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Program. An additional $175 million has been set aside for Interstate 81 paid for by surplus tax revenue from quarter 1 of 2024.

The new budget will be effective July 1, 2024.   A full list of Senator Obenshain’s bills from the 2024 General Assembly session may be found here.

Senator Obenshain represents the Second District in the Senate of Virginia. The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Bath, Highland, Page, Rockingham, and Augusta (part.) He is a member of the Senate Committee on Courts of Justice; Commerce & Labor; Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources; and the Finance and Appropriations Committee.

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Obenshain Statement on Bill to Curb Fentanyl Crisis in Commonwealth Denied Hearing in House of Delegates

February 16, 2024

Legislation, passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote of 38-2, was docketed in House and then refused a hearing

RICHMOND, VA – Today, Senator Mark Obenshain’s (R- Rockingham) Senate Bill 469 was docketed to be heard in the Courts of Justice Criminal Subcommittee in the House of Delegates and then was abruptly removed without a hearing or testimony. 

This bill addresses the issue of counterfeit drugs, particularly targeting those laced with deadly substances like fentanyl. In 2022, the DEA confiscated over 59.6 million counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl, but the real concern lies in the millions more that slipped through and made their way into the Commonwealth. Notably, fake oxycodone pills led to nine overdoses in Loudoun County schools this past year. 

Senator Obenshain said of its abrupt removal and rejection of a hearing, “Tragically, virtually every person in the Commonwealth has someone close to them or knows someone with a close connection to someone who has died of a drug overdose, fentanyl in particular. I was grateful to my colleagues in the State Senate for passing this bipartisan bill out of the Senate with only two nay votes. When I was notified of its docketing to the Courts of Justice Criminal Subcommittee and confirmed that it would receive a hearing, I looked forward to presenting the contents of this bill to the committee. After arriving to present the legislation, the chair unilaterally declared that the bill would not be heard.” 

He continued, “The bill provides three avenues to get at those who are manufacturing and altering these drugs for sale: It elevates penalties for violations related to adulterated or misbranded drugs, also known as counterfeit drugs. It criminalizes the possession of ‘encapsulating machines’ and ‘tableting machines’ (pill presses). It also extends the existing penalties for manufacturing methamphetamine with a minor or incapacitated person present to those who commit the same act of manufacturing counterfeit drugs with fentanyl. In addition to giving prosecutors tools to go after these drug dealers, it also protects children who live in homes where fentanyl laced drugs are being manufactured. This is the same protection we are providing children who are present in meth labs.”

Faythe Silveira on behalf of “Fentanyl Moms,” a group committed to raising awareness of the opioid crisis and the deadly effects of fentanyl, commented, “We are in shock and pain that the House subcommittee refused to hear Senator Obenshain’s bill that would make it harder for traffickers to make pressed fentanyl pills or manufacture drugs with minors present. Families should not have to wait another whole year to see change.  What is it going to take to stop this crisis? 2,000 people in Virginia, many in their teens and 20’s, died from fentanyl in the past year. Fake pressed pills account for many of those deaths. Thanks to Senator Obenshain and other champion legislators for trying to stop the flow of poisonous fentanyl.”

Obenshain concluded, “In addressing the challenges posed by fentanyl, the General Assembly must put petty partisan politics aside and come together to prioritize treatment, robust drug education programs, and increase public awareness. And given the crisis we face from fentanyl, we also need to make sure we disrupt supply chains and production processes. This partisan action means that Virginians must wait another year and ensures that more children, teenagers, and young adults will die as a result of this fentanyl poison.”

Senator Obenshain represents the second district in the Senate of Virginia. The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Bath, Highland, Page, Rockingham, and Augusta (part.) He is a member of the Senate Committee on Courts of Justice; Commerce & Labor; Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources; and the Finance Committee.

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Supreme Court rules in favor of Colorado graphic designer who refused to create same-sex wedding websites

June 30, 2023

Fox News | June 30, 2023

The Supreme Court held that a Colorado graphic designer who wants to make wedding websites does not have to create them for same-sex marriages, in a landmark decision that pit the interests of LGBTQ non-discrimination against First Amendment freedom.

In a 6-3 decision issued Friday, the high court ruled in favor of artist Lorie Smith, who sued the state over its anti-discrimination law that prohibited businesses providing sales or other accommodations to the public from denying service based on a customer’s sexual orientation.

Smith said the law infringed on her First Amendment rights by forcing her to promote messages that violate her deeply held faith.

The case, 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, drew national attention as it featured competing interests of the First Amendment right to free speech and non-discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

Lorie Smith Supreme Court

Lorie Smith, owner of 303 Creative at center of Supreme Court free-speech case. (ADF )

The law, known as the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA), prohibits businesses providing sales or services to the publics from denying services to someone based on their identity. Supporters of CADA claim that the law is necessary to keep businesses from discriminating. 

READ THE SUPREME COURT OPINION – APP USERS, CLICK HERE:

Smith has maintained throughout the case that she has no problem working with the LGBTQ community, just not for gay weddings.

303 Creative owner Lorie Smith stands in front of the Colorado State Capitol.

303 Creative owner Lorie Smith said she faced threats after challenging the  Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act. (Credit: Alliance Defending Freedom)

“I think it’s important for people to understand that I love and welcome the opportunity to work with all people. My case has never been about choosing which client to work with, but about choosing the message that I’m being asked to promote,” Smith told Fox News Digital in a March 2022 interview.

Smith has said that she faced threats throughout the duration of her case.

“I’ve had my home address put on social media, I have received many threats — death threats, threats of bodily harm,” she said in December. “The security system on my home, my child’s school has been on alert. I’ve lost business, my clients have been harassed and my website… people attempt to hack into it, almost regularly by the hour.”

Lorie Smith of 303 Creative  (Credit: Alliance Defending Freedom )

SUPREME COURT HEARS FREE SPEECH ARGUMENTS OVER COLORADO COMPANY REFUSING TO CREATE WEBSITES FOR GAY WEDDINGS

Despite this, Smith said she did not regret going to court.

“The right to speak freely is guaranteed to all of us, and that’s been hard at times,” she said. “While it has come at a cost, it’s a right worth protecting.”

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This is the second time CADA has been at the center of a Supreme Court case. In 2018, bakery Masterpiece Cakeshop won a case where owner Jack Phillips refused to design and create cakes specifically for gay weddings. 

That case did not rule on whether the law itself violated the First Amendment for free speech or religious reasons, as they held that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had anti-religious bias in enforcing the law against Phillips.

Brianna Herlihy is a politics writer for Fox News Digital.

Supreme Court rejects affirmative action in ruling on universities using race in admissions decisions

June 29, 2023

Fox News | June 29, 2023

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down a major ruling on affirmative action Thursday, rejecting the use of race as a factor in college admissions as a violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

In a 6-3 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that, “A benefit to a student who overcame racial discrim­ination, for example, must be tied to that student’s courage and determination.”

“Or a benefit to a student whose herit­age or culture motivated him or her to assume a leadership role or attain a particular goal must be tied to that student’s unique ability to contribute to the university. In other words, the student must be treated based on his or her ex­periences as an individual—not on the basis of race,” the opinion reads.

“Many universities have for too long done just the oppo­site. And in doing so, they have concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice,” the opinion states.

Justice Roberts was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

Harvard banners

Harvard banners hang outside Memorial Church on the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Friday, Sept. 4, 2009. The Supreme Court ruled in affirmative action cases, including one over Harvard’s admissions practices. (Photo by Michael Fein/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the main dissent, joined by Justices Elena Kagan and in part by Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who recused herself from the Harvard case due to her previous role on Harvard’s Board of Overseers.

President Biden is expected to deliver remarks on the decision at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday.

FOX NEWS POLL: VOTER TRUST AND CONFIDENCE IN INSTITUTIONS HITS ROCK-BOTTOM

The justices decided two separate legal challenges over just how Harvard University – a private institution – and the University of North Carolina – a public one – decide who fills their classrooms.

These prominent schools say their standards have a larger societal goal, one endorsed for decades by the courts: to promote a robust, intellectually diverse campus for future leaders.

But a coalition of Asian American students says the criteria discriminated with a “racial penalty” – holding them to a selectively higher standard than many Black and Hispanic students.

READ THE SUPREME COURT AFFIRMATIVE ACTION OPINION

Student activist group Students for Fair Admissions brought cases against both Harvard and University of North Carolina. The group initially sued Harvard College in 2014 for violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in any program or activity that receives Federal funds or other Federal financial assistance.”

The complaint against Harvard alleged that the school’s practices penalized Asian American students, and that they failed to employ race-neutral practices. The North Carolina case raised the issue of whether the university could reject the use of non-race-based practices without showing that they would bring down the school’s academic quality or negatively impact the benefits gained from campus diversity.

JUSTICES HEAR ARGUMENTS OVER AFFIRMATIVE ACTION IN HARVARD, UNC SUPREME COURT CASES

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit had ruled in Harvard’s favor, upholding the outcome of a district court bench trial. The district court said that the evidence against Harvard was inconclusive and that “the observed discrimination” affected only a small pool of Asian American students. It ruled that SFFA did not have standing in the case.

In the UNC case, a federal district court ruled in the school’s favor, saying that its admissions practices withstood strict scrutiny.

Roberts said in his majority opinion that both admissions programs at Harvard and UNC “lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative man­ner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points.”

“We have never permitted admissions programs to work in that way, and we will not do so today,” he said. 

The Supreme Court building

The Supreme Court handed down a new ruling on affirmative action. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Justice Clarence Thomas, while agreeing with the majority opinion, wrote a separate concurrence with his own thoughts.  

The decision, he said, “sees the universities’ admissions policies for what they are: rudderless, race-based preferences designed to ensure a particular racial mix in their entering classes. Those policies fly in the face of our colorblind Constitution and our Nation’s equality ideal. In short, they are plainly—and boldly—unconstitutional.”

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION CASE: JUSTICES ALITO, ROBERTS SNAP AT HARVARD LAWYER

“While I am painfully aware of the social and economic ravages which have befallen my race and all who suffer discrimination, I hold out enduring hope that this country will live up to its principles so clearly enunciated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States: that all men are created equal, are equal citizens, and must be treated equally before the law,” Thomas wrote. 

The affirmative action cases gave rise to one of the most spirited court debates to occur within the Supreme Court building this past term, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito grilling Harvard’s lawyer, Seth Waxman.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts got into a heated exchange with Harvard’s lawyers regarding affirmative action. (Julia Nikhinson-Pool/Getty Images)

Alito pressed Waxman on why it is that Asian American students regularly receive lower personal scores on their applications than other races. Waxman talked around the justice’s questions, causing Alito to get frustrated with the lawyer. 

KETANJI BROWN JACKSON CLASHES WITH ANTI-AFFIRMATIVE ACTION LAWYER DURING SUPREME COURT ARGUMENTS

“I still haven’t heard any explanation for the disparity between the personal scores that are given to Asians,” Alito said.

Waxman then got into a tense back-and-forth with Roberts. The justice asked why Waxman was downplaying race as a factor in admissions decisions, when according to Roberts it must have some impact, or else it would not be included.

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Waxman admitted that race was decisive “for some highly qualified applicants,” just like “being … an oboe player in a year in which the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra needs an oboe player.”

“We did not fight a civil war about oboe players,” Roberts shot back. “We did fight a civil war to eliminate racial discrimination.”

In 2003, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was the “swing” – or deciding – vote in a landmark Supreme Court case over race.

While upholding the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policies for minority law school applicants, the court majority led by O’Connor offered this caveat: “We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.”

Fast-forward 19 years, and a 6-3 conservative court majority has now blocked colleges and universities from using race as part of the competitive admissions process.

Fox News’ Tyler Olson contributed to this report.

Fox News: Democratic lawmakers caught on hot mic mocking parental rights as ‘garbage,’ ‘stupid’

April 27, 2023

Two Democratic lawmakers in Virginia were caught on hot mic last week mocking parental rights as “garbage,” “crap,” and “stupid,” according to two recordings posted on social media by the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC).

On the recordings, which were taken at a Friday meet-and-greet at Christopher Newport University, state Sen. Monty Mason and state Del. Shelly Simonds can be heard ripping Republicans over S.B. 1515, a bill that required pornography websites to verify a user’s age to be at least 18 before allowing access to its content.

They also slammed an amendment to the bill proposed by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin that would have required children to get permission from parents to set up social media accounts and use websites that collect user data, such as online shopping sites. The bill passed the state legislature, but Youngkin’s amendment was rejected.

“Well, there are three real bills that were of consequence: the hemp bill, offshore wind adjustment that we ended up [inaudible] not even discussing, and the one he slapped — that online parental garbage on pornography bill,” Mason said on one of the recordings, referencing a number of bills previously brought up in the legislature, including S.B. 1515.

He went on to describe the idea of requiring an extra step in the online shopping process to verify a buyer’s age as “stupid.” “What are you sending, a letter?” he jokingly asked.

In the second recording posted by the RSLC, Mason claimed there was “no practical application” to Youngkin’s amendment to the bill, and accused Republicans of playing politics by running digital advertisements against Democrats following the amendment’s rejection.

“I mean, it’s just all a part of this parental crap that they’re selling,” he said, before Simonds chimed in and tied the issue to her desire to keep the Democratic majority in the state Senate.

“This is why we have to keep the Senate… because the House is in the hands of the Republicans, and they can push through all kinds of stupid things. We rely on the Senate to kill it all,” she said.

The dismissive approach from the two Democrats toward parental rights comes less than a year and a half after Youngkin’s shock victory over former Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe in the state’s 2021 gubernatorial election. Parental rights in education took a central role in the race amid rising concern over the teaching of critical race theory and other “woke” subjects in schools.

Virginia Democrats Monty Mason Shelly Simonds

Virginia Democratic state Del. Shelly Simonds and state Sen. Monty Mason. (Reuters/Virginia State Senate)

That concern led to a revolt against Democrats by suburban parents in Northern Virginia and around Richmond, despite trending towards the party in recent elections. It’s unclear why Democrats would continue down the same course on such issues despite that election’s outcome.

Fox News Digital reached out to Simonds and Mason for comment but did not immediately receive responses.

I’m Running!

March 1, 2023

We wrapped up the 2023 Session this past week and so I am back in the Valley and ready for an exciting year.  

Over the past two weeks, an unprecedented number of General Assembly retirements have been announced. The time has come for me to announce that… I am NOT retiring! I AM RUNNING FOR REELECTION TO THE VIRGINIA STATE SENATE!

Virginia is one of the few states in the country that has elections in odd numbered years so I don’t exaggerate when I say that all eyes will be on Virginia this year.

All 100 House of Delegate districts and 40 State Senate districts are up for grabs and we must keep our Republican majority in the House of Delegates and win back majority in the State Senate.  There are going to be a lot of new faces in Richmond. It looks like nearly one third of the members of the General Assembly will be new.

Will you donate to my campaign today so that we can ensure we have the resources we need to win back the Senate in November?

Every 10 years, Virginia is required to draw new State Senate districts as a result of the census. In 2021, the Supreme Court of Virginia did just that and as a result, I will now be running to represent Senate District 2. Although the district number is different, the communities I hope to represent and my resolve to stand up for our conservative values in Richmond remains unwavering.

To learn more about Senate District 2, visit my website MarkObenshain.com/redistricting.

I’m running for reelection because the work I started when I was first elected in 2003 is not finished. When I was first elected I promised to fight for Virginia’s taxpayers. Right now we are engaged in a budget stalemate in which we have a $3.6 billion budget surplus, but many in Richmond fail to recognize that this is money that belongs to the taxpayers and they deserve to have at least a portion of it returned to them. I plan to continue to fight against undisciplined government growth and the efforts of those who believe we are taxed too little.

I promised that I would fight for safer communities in Virginia. Too many Virginians are suffering the effects of the opioid, meth and fentanyl epidemics that are killing young people, ruining lives, breaking up families and devastating our communities. We need commonsense public safety reforms that will return us to a trajectory in which we have safer communities and neighborhoods.

I promised that I would stand strong for the protection of innocent human life. I have fought to defend our parental consent laws and fought against radical legislation that would legalize abortion up to the moment of birth. With the decision of the Supreme Court this year overturning the wrongly decided Roe v. Wade decision, I stand with Governor Youngkin and others in the General Assembly to pass laws that further a culture that values and protects innocent human life, especially including the unborn.

When I first ran, I promised to fight to protect our Second Amendment rights. During the short period of time when Democrats controlled the Executive Branch and both chambers of the General Assembly, unnecessary and burdensome restrictions were imposed upon the constitutional right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms. Many so-called civil libertarians seek to pick and choose those parts of the Bill of Rights they deem to be relevant, while ignoring the Second Amendment and the right to free speech – when it involves speech with which they disagree.  I will continue to stand up for the entire Bill of Rights – Second Amendment included.

I promise you this: liberal elites and Democrats around the country are looking at Virginia and ready to pour millions of dollars to take back the House of Delegates and maintain their majority in the Senate. If that happens, they will be able to block legislation that we know to be necessary to ensure we leave the Commonwealth a better place for future generations. 

I hope you’ll consider a donation today to my campaign to help fight against liberal attempts to take over Virginia. Click here to donate today.

Over the next eight months, I look forward to getting out on the campaign trail and meeting you, whether it be at your doorstep, at the diner where you eat lunch, or at the church you attend on Sundays. 

It has been my distinct honor and privilege to represent the people of Shenandoah, Warren and Rappahannock Counties in the Senate for the past 20 years, but redistricting forces me to bid farewell to these counties and the many friends that Suzanne and I have made during that time. While I will not be representing you in the future, I know that our friendships will endure and that those friends will continue to call me if I can ever be of service.

The new legislative district maps have given me the opportunity to spend more time in Eastern Rockingham County, Augusta, Highland and Bath Counties. I have already made many friends and I look forward to making many more and look forward to serving the citizens of those counties (along with those of Page, Rockingham and Harrisonburg) in the coming days, weeks and years

Suzanne and I are deeply grateful for the support I have received in my political endeavors and that our family has received. We do not lightly embark on this endeavor and I hope that I have or will earn your support in this important campaign for reelection to the Virginia State Senate.

Thank you for your friendship and support.

Best,

Mark 

Judges, Bail, Heroes and Budgets

February 3, 2023

It has been a very busy two weeks here at the General Assembly as we prepare for Crossover (the official halfway point of session) next week.

Yesterday, on a party line vote, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to kill two public safety bills that I patroned. The first would have established a criminal penalty for individuals who intend to intimidate a judge by picketing or parading near the home of that judge.

Threats against judges are up 400% since 2016, many of which were motivated by political extremism. In 2022, an armed man attempted to kidnap or murder Brett Kavanaugh and his family. In 2020, a federal judge’s son was killed and her husband was seriously wounded after a man targeted them in their own home.

Our judges are critical to our democracy and we depend on them to administer justice by applying the law, not out of fear or intimidation. Moreover, there is just no excuse for the deliberate efforts of political extremists whether from the right or the left to target or intimidate the families of these public servants.

Another bill killed, on a party line vote by Senate Democrats, was one that would have established judicial presumption that those arrested for rape, robbery, or murder would not be released on bail. As a part of the Democrats’ so called “social-justice reforms” the past few years, progressives in the Virginia House and Senate removed all presumptions against bail that existed in our code, even for the worst of the worst — those accused of rape, robbery, or murder.

This reckless “reform” has put dangerous offenders back on the street where they are free to reoffend while awaiting trial. Such was the case in the tragic murder of Karla Dominguez in Alexandria after her accused rapist was released on bond he murdered her.

Look, I get it. It’s an election year and Senate Democrats are looking to solidify support from their ultra-liberal base voters who often push policies that overlook the safety of families across the Commonwealth for the sake of so-called social justice. What they fail to recognize is that they are applying “Social-Justice” in ways that ignore victims — and many of these victims are persons of color.

I will continue to stand up for the safety of neighborhoods, communities and families, election year or not.

On a more positive note, my SB 1220 to  name the westbound bridge on Rt. 211 in Luray after fallen Stanley Police Officer Dominick ‘Nick’ J. Winum unanimously reported from the Senate Transportation Committee.  Officer Winum was killed in the line of duty almost two years ago while selflessly protecting members of his community.  He was a former State Trooper and one of his favorite spots to sit while on patrol was on the westbound side of Rt. 211 outside Luray to overlook the Shenandoah River and the scenic views of the Valley.  It is only fitting that this bridge be named in honor of Officer Winum. SB 1220 will be on the Senate Floor Monday for final passage.

This week marked the one-year anniversary of the tragic incident at Bridgewater College. The loss of Officers John Painter and J.J. Jefferson still stings our community. After their death, it came to light that their families were not eligible for any death benefits as police officers because private college police departments were not eligible to enroll in the state administered Line of Duty Act (LODA.)  I am grateful that Governor Youngkin offered a budget amendment last year providing both families with the death benefit that would have been available to any other law enforcement office who died in the line of duty. I strongly suspect that this was an inadvertent oversight that escaped notice until the death of two officers. I promised the Governor and private colleges last year that I would introduce legislation this year to make them eligible to enroll in this program. If a private college elects to enroll, they would be required to pay premiums for participation, so they will pay their own way.

I am pleased to report that this legislation, SB 1228 passed the Senate unanimously and now makes its way to the House. With the advancement of my bill, we are making progress in our efforts to do right by law enforcement officers and their families.

This weekend, the House Appropriations and Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees will release their respective packages of amendments to the 2022-2024 budget.  Both chambers will approve their versions of the budget on February 9 and negotiations over the different versions will begin shortly thereafter. Ultimately, it will be those negotiations that determine how much tax relief Virginians will receive this year.  Presumably, the House version will incorporate most provisions of Governor Youngkin’s tax relief plan and the Senate version will not.

I submitted a budget amendment seeking $235M to expedite safety improvements along the I-81 Corridor. Last year I-64 received double that amount for widening projects near Williamsburg..  Just this week, yet another serious crash on 81 resulted in multiple fatalities. 

You can look here for a full list of the bills I am carrying this session.  I will continue to provide updates on significant developments during the course of Session. If you have opinions (pro or con), questions or concerns about any legislation before the General Assembly, please do not hesitate to share those with me. You can always reach me by email at [email protected] and my office can be reached at either 804-698-7526 (Richmond Office) or 540-437-1451 (Harrisonburg District Office.)  Should you be in Richmond at any point during the General Assembly Session, please stop by my office (Room 502), say hello, and let us know if we can do anything for you during your visit.

I always enjoy visiting and meeting with groups and constituents from home. The last two weeks I’ve had the pleasure to visit with Old Dominion Association of Christian Schools students, Blue Ridge Beverage Company, JMU President Jon Alger, Pro-Life Advocates, Page County Sheriff Chad Cubbage and his Deputy Sheriffs, Brain Injury Connections of the Shenandoah Valley, JMU Victim Assistance program, and local dentists as part of Virginia Dental Association Day.

Best,

Mark 

Senator Obenshain Releases Statement on Public Safety Bills

February 2, 2023

RICHMOND, VA- Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) issued the following statement today in response to the Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee’s action on key public safety bills.

“Yesterday, on a party line vote, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee voted to kill two bills that I patroned to protect our families across the Commonwealth. The first would have  established a criminal penalty for any individuals who intend to intimidate a judge by picketing or parading near the home of that judge.

Threats against judges are up 400% since 2016, many of which were motivated by political extremism. In 2022, an armed man attempted to kidnap or murder Brett Kavanaugh and his family. In 2020, a federal judge’s son was killed and her husband was seriously wounded after a man targeted them in their own home.

Our justices are a critical part of our democracy and we depend on them to administer justice by applying the law, not out of fear or intimidation. Moreover, there is just no excuse for targeting justices with the deliberate efforts of political extremists whether from the right or the left to intimidate the families of the public servants.

Another bill killed, on a party line by Senate Democrats was one that would have established judicial presumption that those arrested for rape, robbery, or murder – would not be released on bail. As a part of the Democrats’ so called social-justice reforms the past few years, progressives in the Virginia House and Senate removed all presumptions against bail that existed in our code, even for the worst of the worst -those accused of rape, robbery, or murder.

This reckless “reform” has put dangerous offenders back on the street where they are free to reoffend while awaiting trial, such was the case in the tragic murder of Karla Dominguez whose boyfriend, released on bail, proceeded to rape and murder her.

Look, I get it. It’s an election year and Senate Democrats are looking to solidify support from their ultra-liberal base voters who often push policies that overlook the safety of families across the Commonwealth for the sake of so-called social justice. What they fail to recognize is that “Social-Justice” needs to be applied in a way that does not ignore victims and that many of these victims are persons of color.

But I stand for the safety of our justices and Commonwealth families, election year or not.”

Senator Obenshain represents the twenty-sixth district in the Senate of Virginia. The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Page Rappahannock and Rockingham (part).  He is a member of the Senate Judiciary; Commerce & Labor; Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources; and Transportation Committees.

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Obenshain Statement on the Line of Duty Act Bill Advancing to Senate Floor   

January 26, 2023

RICHMOND, VA – Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) issued the following statement in response to SB 1228 reporting unanimously from the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee yesterday. 

The tragic death of two officers almost a year ago at Bridgewater College still stings our community. After the death of John Painter and J.J. Jefferson, it came to light that they were not eligible for any death benefits as police officers because private college police departments were not eligible to enroll in the state administered Line of Duty Act (LODA.)  I am grateful that Governor Youngkin offered a budget amendment last year which provided both families with the death benefit that would have been available to any other law enforcement office who died in the line of duty. I strongly suspect that this was an inadvertent oversight that escaped notice until the death of two officers. I promised the Governor and private colleges last year that I would introduce legislation this year to make them eligible to enroll in this program. If a private college elects to enroll, they would be required to pay premiums for participation, so they will pay their own way. With the advancement of my bill, we are making progress in our efforts to do right by law enforcement officers and their families,” Obenshain said.

“I am pleased that the bill reported from committee with votes from Democrats and Republicans and I am looking forward to its final passage in the Senate later this week.”

The full text of SB 1228 can be found here.  Senator Obenshain’s full list of legislation for the 2023 session can be viewed here.

SB 1228 will now move to the Senate Floor for a full vote later this week and then will move to the House of Delegates.

Senator Obenshain currently represents the twenty-sixth district in the Senate of Virginia. The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Page Rappahannock and Rockingham (part). He is a member of the Senate Judiciary; Commerce & Labor; Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources; and Transportation Committees.

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Week 2 General Assembly Update

January 24, 2023

With the conclusion of the second week of the 2023 General Assembly Session, one thing is becoming increasingly clear – Republicans need to retake control of the Virginia Senate! This week, the Democratic leaders in the Senate showed just how partisan they have become and have demonstrated their unwillingness to put good policy ahead of politics.

      Last Monday, the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, upon which I sit, considered the repeal of 2021 legislation that ceded to California authority to control the timeline for banning the sale of new gas-powered vehicles in Virginia. The liberal elite wants to require working Virginians to spend upwards of $75,000 for an electric vehicle as their next car or truck. Unless repealed 35% of all new vehicles sold in Virginia by 2026 must be electric vehicles and it will impose a complete ban on the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035. In what must have been an accidental moment of candor, one Democrat on the Committee admitted that these goals are aspirational and cannot be met, but on a party line vote (15 Democrats to 3 Republicans) the Committee rejected this commonsense measure.

      Last week, the Privileges and Elections Committee heard multiple election integrity bills. Notwithstanding broad bipartisan support, the Committee refused to reinstate the photo ID mandate. The Committee also rejected a bill that would have ended same day voter registration – allowing persons to show up on Election Day, register and vote at the same time.  Finally, the Committee killed a bill that would have criminalized intentional efforts to register non-citizens to vote.

      As most are aware, I have been working to restore integrity to Virginia’s Parole Board and its operations. The scandal-ridden Northam-appointed Parole Board found itself in the midst of a media firestorm when it was caught releasing convicted murders, rapists and kidnappers without properly notifying victims, their families or law enforcement in the communities where the crimes were committed. On Friday, a Senate committee killed my transparency bill to require Parole Board members to actually show up, and meet in person, require current interviews of inmates and allow victims to offer input via virtual means. Americans are sick and tired of having legislators or government officials not showing up to do their jobs. If a friend or family member of mine were preparing for a parole hearing, I would certainly want parole board members to take it sufficiently seriously that they would actually meet in person, discuss the case and have a current interview of the inmate before making a parole decision. Finally, the bill would have allowed victims to provide input virtually. Nobody testified in opposition to this bill, yet Democrats on the committee killed it on a party line vote. Attorney General Jason Miyares pledged to investigate the misconduct by the Northam parole board and I hope that he will get to the bottom of the scandal-ridden conduct of that panel. For the sake of safe communities across Virginia and for the sake of fairness from the perspective of everybody involved in the process, it is essential that integrity and public confidence be restored in the process.

      Finally, on Friday, a Senate subcommittee considered bills protecting innocent human life. First was a bill introduced by Senator Travis Hackworth, limiting abortion from conception with exceptions for medical emergency and rape or incest (before 20 weeks and with a police report). The Governor’s bill, patroned by Steve Newman would limit abortions after 15 weeks of gestational age with exceptions for medical emergency, rape or incest. Senator Siobhan Dunnavant introduced a bill that would limit abortions in the third trimester, with exceptions for medical emergencies and nonviable pregnancies. The Senate Education and Health Committee, controlled by Democrats recommended defeating all of those bills. Surveys show that more than 80% of Americans, across all racial, ethnic and political lines oppose late-term abortions, but not a single Democrat on the Committee was willing to vote even for those very limited restrictions. Innocent human life needs to be protected. It is clear that those Senate Democrats want no restrictions whatsoever on abortion.

      You can look here for a full list of the bills I am carrying this session.    I will endeavor to provide weekly updates on significant developments during the course of Session. If you have opinions (pro or con), questions or concerns about any legislation before the General Assembly, please do not hesitate to share those with me. I can always be reached by email at [email protected] and my office can be reached at either 804-698-7526 (Richmond Office) or 540-437-1451 (Harrisonburg District Office.)  Should you be in Richmond at any point during the General Assembly Session, please stop by my office (Room 502) and say hello and let us know if we can do anything for you during your visit.

      I always enjoy visiting with and meeting with groups and constituents from home. This week was very busy with visits from  Second Amendment supporters from the VCDL, local Credit Union leaders, Leadership Harrisonburg/Rockingham Chamber Class, Page County advocates for the Federation of the Blind, EMS representatives, Rappahannock Board of Supervisors member, Virginia Interfaith Council and students from Shenandoah County Central High School’s Y Street program.